Goran Hadzic in UN war crimes tribunal's custody

22nd July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Serbia on Friday handed over former Croatian Serb rebel leader Goran Hadzic to the UN tribunal that will try him for warcrimes -- the last of the court's wanted fugitives.

Hadzic, wanted on 14 charges for his role in the 1991-95 Croatian war, will face a single judge before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in a preliminary appearance on Monday.

"Goran Hadzic ... was today transferred to the tribunal's custody, after having been at large for almost seven years," the ICTY said in a statement.

"Hadzic ... has been admitted to the UN detention unit in The Hague."

A plane transporting the erstwhile leader of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbian Krajina during the early 1990s, touched down at Rotterdam airport shortly after 2:30 pm (1230 GMT), Dutch news agency ANP reported.

Serbian Justice Minister Snezana Malovic earlier Friday signed an official order authorising his transfer to the ICTY.

The tribunal has charged Hadzic of war crimes and crimes against humanity, accusing him of having overseen the murders of hundreds of civilians and the deportation of tens of thousands of Croats during the war.

"Hadzic will be called upon to answer for the deaths of hundreds and the displacement of thousands," ICTY prosecutor Serge Brammertz told journalists on Friday afternoon.

The one-time warehouse worker is the last of 161 persons indicted by the ICTY to be arrested. The court was established in 1993 to try war crimes committed during the 1990s Balkans war.

Hadzic was arrested Wednesday by Serbia in the idyllic mountain region of Fruska Gora near the northern city of Novi Sad.

His arrest came less than two months after Serbian authorities finally captured wartime Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic, the court's most wanted fugitive.

He is wanted mainly for his alleged involvement in the massacre by Croatian Serb troops of some 264 Croats and other non-Serbs taken from a hospital in Vukovar after the city fell to Serbian troops in November 1991 following a three-month siege.

Charges against him also include overseeing attacks on Croatian towns, villages and settlements by Serb forces, including those commanded by the notorious Zeljko Raznatovic -- better known as "Arkan's Tigers."

Hadzic is also charged over his alleged involvement in the deportation and inhumane imprisonment of thousands of Croats and other non-Serbs.

The tribunal's registrar said Hadzic would make an initial appearance before an ICTY judge on Monday afternoon.

"The initial appearance (of Hadzic) will be led by Mr (Judge) O-Gon Kwon on Monday" at 4:00 pm (1400 GMT)," registrar John Hocking told journalists in The Hague.

Prosecutor Brammertz said: "for many, Hadzic's arrest may not rank alongside the arrests of Milosevic, Karadzic or Mladic," referring to the three Serbian strongmen believed most responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the wars in former Yugoslavia.

"However, Hadzic was a senior political figure during the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and the crimes charged against him are extensive and grave," Brammertz said.

"With Goran Hadzic now in custody, we will turn our full attention to the completion of our remaining trials and appeals."

Brammertz added that by arresting Hadzic, Serbian authorities had fulfilled a "key international obligation", but he said the case on how Hadzic managed to evade justice was not closed.

"We look forward to receiving additional information about how he was able to evade justice for the last seven years," said Brammertz.

© 2011 AFP

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